First and foremost would be my husband. We met online in 1996--I believe it was August--and what caught my attention about him was his sense of humor and his knowledge of music. More particularly, different types of music that I really liked. We had a long distance relationship for a long time, and he was one of the most romantic men I have ever seen. I always felt like a princess in the early days of our relationship. As time went on, things changed and evolved, and thirteen years later, here we are. He's got a wicked sense of humor, a tremendous loyalty to people who love him, and he's insanely smart. He drives me crazy but I love him dearly. I can't imagine my life without him.
My kids would be next on the list--those sweet little children who were so scared when they entered our home. Over time as I've gotten to know their personalities, watch them grown, influence their choices, I have an intense gratitude to God for having had the experience of being their mother. They have taught me as much about myself as I have taught them about the world. The love for one's child is unconditional, and experiencing that kind of love is a gift that can't be described.
My parents. I remember a time when I wasn't so grateful for my parents! I was a typical teen whose parents "just didn't understand". It's amazing at how much more those same people understand just a few years later! I can't imagine my life with any other parents, nor would I have wanted to go through this journey without the parents I have. I don't regret a moment of it.
My wonderful friends, who are spread across the country. Many of my friends I met through work; some through school; still others I have never met in person. But I feel so fortunate to know them, and love them all. I believe strongly that each person we meet has the potential to teach us, and I constantly hope that I am learning the lessons.
My brother and extended family continue to offer me lessons in life, too. I love them for a million different reasons, even if we don't always agree. Disagreement is something that flexes the mind and the soul, and creates a more complex person. Regardless, I love them for being good people and for flexing my soul!
My students--all of them--enrich my life more than they ever could imagine. Whether they are two or twenty two, I learn from all of them on a daily basis. I love the curiosity and excitement they bring to the classroom. I love the faith they have in me initially, and the faith they learn to have in the process of learning.
And lastly, no ode to love would be complete without a mention of Amanda and Gabi. Amanda, my canine companion for seventeen years, taught me about unconditional love and devotion. There was literally nothing in this world I could have ever done that would have changed Amanda's reaction to me. She loved me in the kind of way that humans aren't always capable of. Our cognition often triggers strong emotions that get in the way of remembering the basic tenet of love: that it is, at its very core, mystical and unconditional. Losing Amanda was incredibly painful for that reason. But Gabi is a living reminder of all the things that Amanda taught me. As I write this, my little eight-pound wonder is resting at the edge of my laptop, surrounded by her chew toys. Is she happy? I think so. Goodness knows, she is loved. I don't think Gabi is cognizant of any kind of existence where she would not be loved and adored. I wish that were true for everyone.
Happy Valentine's Day!